Whistleblower: The NSA is Lying -- The U.S. Government Has Copies of Most of Your Emails
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Editor's note: The following is a transcript of a Democracy Now! 4-part series on America's growing surveillance state.
National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney reveals he believes domestic surveillance has become more expansive under President Obama than President George W. Bush. He estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion "transactions" — phone calls, emails and other forms of data — from Americans. This likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States. Binney talks about Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and challenges NSA Director Keith Alexander’s assertion that the NSA is not intercepting information about U.S. citizens. This interview is part of a 4-part special. Click here to see segment 1, 2, and 4.
(Editor's note: Also interviewed are Laura Poitras, the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, and Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher who has volunteered with WikiLeaks. Both Poitras and Appelbaum have been repeatedly detained and interrogated by federal agents when entering the United States. Their laptops, cameras and cell phones have been seized, and presumably their data has been copied.)
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I wanted to ask William Binney about this issue. When it comes to snail mail, the old postal system, it’s very tough for the government to intercept mail, except in times of war, particular situations. When it comes to phone conversations, land phone conversations, you need a warrant to be able to intercept phone conversations. But what about email, and what about the communication now that is really the dominant form that not only Americans, but many people around the world communicate? What are the restrictions on the government in terms of email?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, after some of the laws they passed, like thePATRIOT Act and their secret interpretation of Section 215, which is—my view, of course, is same as Tom Drake’s, is that that gives them license to take all the commercially held data about us, which is exceedingly dangerous, because if you take that and put it into forms of graphing, which is building relationships or social networks for everybody, and then you watch it over time, you can build up knowledge about everyone in the country. And having that knowledge then allows them the ability to concoct all kinds of charges, if they want to target you. Like in my case, they fabricated several charges and attempted to indict us on them. Fortunately, we were able to produce evidence that would make them look very silly in court, so they didn’t do it. In fact, it was—I was basically assembling evidence of malicious prosecution, which was a countercharge to them. So...
AMY GOODMAN: Do you believe all emails, the government has copies of, in the United States?
WILLIAM BINNEY: I would think—I believe they have most of them, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And you’re speaking from a position where you would know, considering your position in the National Security Agency.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Right. All they would have to do is put various Narus devices at various points along the network, at choke points or convergent points, where the network converges, and they could basically take down and have copies of most everything on the network.
AMY GOODMAN: Jacob, your email?
JACOB APPELBAUM: Well, I selectively chose to use certain public services, like Sonic.net and Gmail, and I specifically did that so as to serve as a warning to other people. I didn’t use it for anything interesting, never once emailed Julian, for example, from those accounts. But the U.S. government again asserted in those cases, according to the Wall Street Journal, which is one way to find out about what’s going on with you—they asserted that they have the right to all that metadata. And it is possible—on Monday, I had a little interaction with the FBI, where they sort of hinted that maybe there might be a national security letter for one of my email accounts, which is also hosted by Google, specifically because I want to serve as a canary in a coal mine for other people.